The surprise announcement of a Steam Game Festival was a welcome one as the United States and many other nations were held in a brief quarantine trying to curb corona virus infections. 38 playable demos of games that are either in early access or releasing soon were available until March 23rd to try out. As with the previous festival, when the end date arrived all of the demos downloaded became inactivated.
Between Animal Crossing's latest update, Resident Evil 3 Remake demo, and Trials of Mana demo, just to name a few, it might have been a difficult time to try out any the demos featured in the game festival. During that time I was able to play the majority of the demos that were available and in an effort to help our Loot Saga community members who had missed out I have put together a Best Use Of list featuring the demos from the Steam Game Festival that offered a unique perspective against the tide of mediocrity.
This list of awards goes to Steam Game Festival games that used game mechanics, storytelling, and art in unique and fantastic ways.
Best Use of Grandmas: Embr
Max and I had a bunch of fun playing Embr. We were tasked with saving people from burning buildings role playing as grandmas loosely clad in firefighter outfits. The cartoon style looked great as did the buildings that were going up in flames as we worked through a couple missions. As you could expect, our firefighter tool kit was essential in putting out fires and each class added some variety to this online multiplayer experience. In Embr you scale buildings, smash windows, fight fires, save lives, and even loot the safes of families you are saving either alone or with up to four players. The demo is still available to download.
Best Use of Controls: Heavenly Bodies
Heavenly Bodies took me by surprise. When tasked with controlling each limb separately in zero-g, a menial sequence of events to solve a puzzle became much more of a dilemma.
But moving around didn't feel at all like a chore. Instead it added to the excitement as a 10 minute clock counted down requiring your character to escape the spaceship before life saving systems went fully offline. The demo was a great example of how movement in itself can be a puzzle, rewarding player who move past the learning curve of controlling each limb as its own button press. Heavenly bodies can also be played as a shared screen coop which lends itself to even more exciting and chaotic movements as players propel off each other in the game's tight spaces.
Best Use of Vegetables: Garden Story
Best Use of Color: Chicory A colorful tale
From the creators of Celeste comes an adventurous tale featuring a dog and a paintbrush. Giving you the ability to literally color in every object and landscape as you progress through this adventure is unlike anything out there. The lovely dialogue, action\puzzle gameplay, and cute outfits put this adventure against a casual backdrop where you could spend a whole lot of time simply painting up the town as you seemed fit.
Best Use of Tentacles: Carrion
Categorized as a reverse horror game, you take control of a evolving organism who has escaped captivity. Feeding on human flesh and biomass you slink through the vents and hallways in this platformer utilizing your tentacles to carry yourself around the facility featured in the demo. This Carrion is not immune to damage and there are forces working against you wielding flame throwers and high caliber rounds as you play out what looks to be a metroidvania action game.
Best Use of Perspective: Moncage
This game featured a really unique puzzle mechanics and imagery to tell a story. You are put in front of a box that shows different scenes based on what side you were viewing, the game requires players to line up the scenes from two sides in completing puzzles. During the demo your tasked with clearing obstacles for a truck to continue its path, forming a bridge and opening gates as it moves forward after completing each puzzle. This game's demo can still be played on itch.io.
Best Use of Particle Effects: Recompile
This game follows a semi-sentient program inside a cyber stylized world. Visually stunning with each battle fought and power absorbed this game brought excitement to my retinas at every turn. During this demo there wasn't much in terms of a story and the soundtrack was a bit sparse, but the intensity of the gun-play and the cyber world kept my interest. Described as a Metroidvania inspired hacking adventure, Recompile is a game to look out for closer to its release this year.
Best Use of Objects: Going Under
In each demo I played I often went in blind, not paying attention to a games description or previews. Going Under turned out to be much more fun than the name would suggest following the story of an intern tasked with enacting a major corporations dirty work in the bowels of its headquarters. Chairs, ping pong paddles, brooms, monitors, swords, spears, and many more objects can be picked up and used to deliver decisive blows to enemies as you move room to room, traveling deeper into the floors below your starting point in roguelite fashion, picking up skills along the way. Definitely consider Going Under if you're a fan of roguelite games.
Best Use of Captions: Liberated
This game's demo tells a story of a near future where government monitoring has advanced to drone surveillance. Telling a story from both sides of a underground war between a resistance effort and a police force in a comic book format. With every gunshot a comic style caption appears above your characters head and the gameplay scenes are contained within a comic book-like border. It will be interesting to see if you get to choose a path and play that side of the story completely or will you follow the route of the demo playing both stories at once.
Best Use of Music: Klang 2
I definitely have a soft spot for rhythm games from a childhood filled with games like DDR and Guitar Hero. Klang 2 brings together rhythm and action by using a few different types of click mechanics enacted to the beat of the soundtrack that translate into fighting and dodging enemies on screen. A base heavy soundtrack and flashy visuals permeate each stage played in the demo and the "insane" level brought me back to memories of trying to beat songs like MAX 300.